Arthur Kaluma, Creighton Bluejays, Big East Tournament

After an exciting first round, the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament matched the intensity, fresh with a few wild endings.

The semifinals are set after four quarterfinals games broke the hearts of some and kept the dream alive of others. On Friday, UConn will meet Marquette, and Xavier will meet Creighton, as the four top seeds all move on.

Takeaway #1: When the threes aren’t falling, Marquette could fall

While Marquette doesn’t necessarily live and die by the three-point shot, it is a very big part of their offensive game. The Golden Eagles rank 42nd in the country and 3rd in the Big East, attempting 25 threes per game on average. Usually, it translates to a lot of points. Marquette is 8th in Adjusted Offense. But on Thursday afternoon in the early window of the Big East Tournament, a 9-of-34 performance from deep kept St. John’s in the game.

But even on a day where the three-point shot got Marquette into trouble, it ultimately saved them in the end. Kam Jones made a huge three with 31 seconds left in regulation to put his team up by 4.

Then, in overtime, the Golden Eagles only shot one three. Instead, it turned into a free throw contest, and Marquette survived, 72-70.

Marquette will play UConn at 6:30 p.m. in the first semifinals game on Friday. The Huskies also shoot a lot of threes, and it is expected to be a fairly high-scoring game. Marquette better hope Thursday’s performance from deep was just an outlier.

Takeaway #2: UConn’s point guard play is shaky, but Tristen Newton is still an x-factor

Both of these statements can be true.

On one hand, the Huskies lack a true point guard. Sure, Tristen Newton does a great job leading the team in assists. Andre Jackson also pitches in to help his teammates get buckets, and Hassan Diarra chimes in here and there in the passing department.

But on Thursday, UConn squandered a massive 20+ point lead, and you can look to an inability of ball-handling as to why Providence was able to come back. The Huskies coughed it up 18 times – twice as many as the Friars. An Andre Jackson turnover in the backcourt allowed Providence to cut the lead to five points.

Tristen Newton might play the point guard position for the UConn Huskies, but he’s not the usual point guard this storied program is used to having. Dishing out assists is one thing. Controlling the tempo and keeping things under control is another.

Without that being said, Newton is an x-factor going forward. He does a lot of great things, including knocking down shots and rebounding from the guard position. If he can keep things fluid, the Huskies have the talent for a very deep run in March. But against a good press or defensive shutdown PG, Connecticut has a glaring weakness.

Takeaway #3: Xavier misses Zach Freemantle… but not how you might think

When it gets down to it, DePaul is not a very good team. They barely eeked out an upset over Seton Hall in the first round. And then, on day two of the Big East Tournament, DePaul was inches away from pulling off the upset of the day in college basketball.

The Blue Demons led the Xavier Musketeers by 5 points with under four minutes to go. Xavier would end the game on a 14-4 run, surviving to see another day at Madison Square Garden.

What people may be most surprised about is the box score. DePaul put up 84 points, but Xavier still had more, with 89. The loss of Zach Freemantle is impactful, but clearly not impactful enough to stop Sean Miller’s squad from scoring a lot of points. Even without their third-leading scorer at 15.2 PPG, Xavier managed to score 49 second-half points and got 77 total out of four starters. Freemantle is a key piece of Xavier’s offense, but apparently, they can manage to score without him.

Where the loss of Freemantle is felt the most is in the rotation. Even before he went down, the team had a noticeably thin rotation. You can play with eight men, but the minutes and usage of Xavier’s starters heavily outweighed the bench production. Now, with Jerome Hunter stepping into the starting lineup in place of Freemantle, Miller only played seven guys against DePaul. Desmond Claude got 21 minutes. Cesare Edwards played 6.

Xavier can clearly manage to play without Freemantle when things are going right. But when foul trouble hits, or God forbid, another injury comes about, I’m not quite sure this rotation can handle it.

Takeaway #4: Creighton is clicking at the right time

Just when Creighton had lost three of six games heading into the Big East Tournament, the Bluejays may have just turned it around.

The Jays closed out the season scoring 99 points on Georgetown and 84 on DePaul. Nobody blinked an eye.

But after taking down Villanova 87 to 74, it’s clear that this Creighton team is on a tear on offense, no matter who is in their way. All five Creighton starters scored at least a dozen points. Baylor Schierman, *only* put up 12 points, ripped down 12 boards, and dished out 9 assists. The team had 22 assists on 28 made buckets and came up one three-point make short of hitting over 50% of their treys.

Creighton’s starting five might be the most potent in the nation, and while the bench doesn’t usually pitch in a lot of points, they know their role and play it well.

The Jays and Musketeers will battle in the nightcap on Friday, in what’s sure to be another fantastic showing of offense at The Garden.

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